Willard named director and dean for MSU's Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Thursday, January 6, 2022
By: Allison Matthews

A longtime Mississippi State faculty member and administrator is the new director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and dean of the university's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Willard named director and dean for MSU Photo By: Kevin Hudson

Scott T. Willard is the permanent director and dean, after serving in these roles on an interim basis since July 2020. His appointment is pending formal approval by the Board of Trustees, State Institutions of Higher Learning. The university conducted a nationwide search, chaired by Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Brent Fountain.

"Dr. Willard has a proven record of effective leadership and scholarship in MAFES and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences over the course of his highly regarded tenure at MSU," said Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw. "As one of the nation's top agricultural research universities, MSU will benefit from his continuing guidance for these critical units that impact not only our state and nation, but truly make significant global contributions to agriculture and food security issues."

Vice President of MSU's Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine Keith Coble said, "Dr. Willard has a strong reputation as a world-class scholar and administrator. We look forward to his ongoing leadership in the role of director and dean."

Since joining the MSU faculty in 1999 as an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences with a three-way appointment in teaching, research and extension, Willard has moved through faculty ranks to serve in several leadership roles. These include professor and head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and later interim head of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. In 2011 he oversaw the merger of these two departments into a combined unit and continued in the role as department head until he was named associate dean of CALS in 2013.

With more than 25 years of teaching and research in reproductive and environmental physiology of domestic and non-domestic animal species, Willard is author or co-author of over 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications and more than 400 total journal publications, reports, abstracts, proceedings, book chapters and a textbook.

He is a fellow of the Food Systems Leadership Institute and the Southeastern Conference Academic Leadership Development Program. He has been recognized with many awards for his research, teaching and administrative service including the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Research, American Society of Animal Science Outstanding Young Animal Scientist, MSU Gamma Sigma Delta Research, MAFES Team Grantsmanship, DAFVM Foil Teamwork, and CALS/MAFES Faculty Research honors. He received the 2018 International Gamma Sigma Delta Award for Distinguished Achievement for advancing and improving the field of agriculture. In 2021, Phi Kappa Phi—one of the nation's most prestigious academic honor societies—honored Willard with his second Love of Learning award.

He also has been recognized by the Mississippi Board of Trustees for the State Institutions of Higher Learning with the Diversity Award for Excellence in 2019 and by the MSU President's Commission on the Status of Minorities in 2017 with the MSU Diversity Award, recognizing his efforts to engage underrepresented minorities and women in STEM fields. He organized the MAFES and CALS Diversity Council in 2014 and is a faculty co-advisor for the university's chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, or MANRRS.

Willard earned his master's and doctoral degrees in physiology of reproduction at Texas A&M University and he did a postdoctoral fellowship in cell biology and anatomy at Medical University of South Carolina. His undergraduate degree in animal science and technology is from University of Rhode Island.

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